Майкл Мейкин – профессор русской словесности Мичиганского университета. Англичанин в долгосрочной ссылке на американском Среднем Западе, он является автором книг и статей о поэтах Марине Цветаевой и Николае Клюеве. Большинство его переводов делаются ради собственного удовольствия или же для предоставления его студентам доступа к задаваемым на его курсах англоязычным версиям оригиналов на русском языке (он преподаёт обзорные курсы по русской литературе XIX-ого, XX-ого и XXI-ого вв, курс по допетровской восточно-славянской культуре, более специализированные курсы по Достоевскому и Чехову, а также курсы по «России сегодня», по провинциальной теме в русской культуре и по спорту в русском обществе). Когда он не работает славистом, он очень любит поддерживать своих сыновей-крикетистов, рэгбистов и пловцов, или разделять страсть его жены Алины к хорошей еде.
Michael Makin is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. An Englishman in longtime exile in the American Midwest, he is the author of books and articles on the poets Marina Tsevataeva and Nikolai Klyuev. Most of his translations have been done for his own pleasure or to provide his students with access to English versions of the Russian originals assigned for his courses (he teaches survey courses on Russian literature of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, as well as a course on pre-modern East Slavic culture, more specialized courses on Dostoevskii and Chekhov, and courses on «Russia Today», the provincial in Russian culture, and sport and Russian society). When he is not working as a Slavist, he enjoys supporting the activities of his three sons as cricketers, rugby players, and swimmers, or sharing his wife Alina’s passion for good food.
From “The Mark of Her Excellency, the Firebird”
Once upon a time, there were two magicians – the gloomy Groucher and the cheerfulGoodheart.
One day a stork with a long beak, turned upwards like a hook, flew in to Groucher’s house with a cradle containing a tiny little boy. Of course, Groucher was furious! He immediately began reciting spells intended to tear the stork into little pieces. But nothing worked: storks with beaks turned upwards like a hook are immune to magic – black or white.
The next day, the same stork brought Goodheart a tiny little girl.
“Thank you!”Goodheart said to the stork. “I am absolutely thrilled. Now I have a daughter”.
Groucher called his son Tararam – a name good for creatures who make a nasty noise. But the boy turned out to be remarkably bright, good-natured, and completely incapable of taking offense at any of the numerous intrigues and tricks thrown his way. When Groucher tried to scare or even anger little Tararam, the boy would laugh so infectiously that for the first time in many years Groucher found himself twisting his narrow lips into something like a smile.
“Poor Daddy!” little Tararam would say, once he had learned to speak. “You’ve thought up another nasty trick! Let me hug you!”
“Why on earth would you want to do that?” Groucherused to ask in irritation.
“To press you to my loving heart. Believe me, you will feel better immediately.”
Meanwhile, Lastyusha, the girl whom Goodheart had received from the stork and to whom he had given such an affectionate name, was quite different – a capricious and moody child. She would get mad over trifles and even for no reason at all. She was cheeky; and she picked fights.
“Good morning”, Goodheart would say, “time to get up!”
“Good night!” Lastyusha would answer and, turning away, would remain lying in her cot.
“Have a nice sleep”, Goodheart would concede.
“Don’t want to!” Lastyusha would say, pulling a face. “I’m sick and tired of lying around!”
“As you like”, Goodheart would concede.
His kindly words would infuriate Lastyusha.
“So how do I like?!” she would exclaim with clenched fists. “Why don’t you work that out?!”
Goodheart would be quite sincerely surprised; in fact, at a complete loss. What on earth had he done? How was he to blame?
“You’ll never work it out!” Lastyusha would mock. “You’ve not got the brains for it…”
Eventually the time came when girls and boys have to start school.
“At last!” Groucher exclaimed with pleasure. “From tomorrow you will be studying in the private school of Professor Come-Thinkman”, he informed Tararam. “And, by the way, you will live at his house. That’s how things are done.”
“I will miss you, Daddy!” sighed Tararam.
“Well I won’t miss you!” thought Groucher with a snort. But he didn’t actually say that out loud. For some reason he couldn’t.
“It’s a pity that we have to live apart,” said Goodheart with a sigh. “But everyone has to study, even the children of magicians. Tomorrow you will be off to Professor Come-Thinkman, to his private school…” he told Lastyusha.
“I’m sick and tired of you…” Lastyusha replied. “But this professor will be sorry he’s agreed to take me as his pupil…”
Professor Come-Thinkman began teaching little Tararam and Lastyusha the three Rs andsoon came to the conclusion that they were both quite ordinary children, of the sort that are just two-a-penny. No intuition for magic, no wizarding talent, no faith-healing, fortune-telling, or spell-casting abilities. On the other hand, Tararam could play football all day and Lastyusha had perfect handwriting.
“He’s good at kicking a ball around?!” Groucher exclaimed indignantly. “He’s the son of a powerful magician! To whom will I bequeath the priceless talent of a crafty wizard and a pitiless sorcerer?”
Goodheart, on the other hand, was genuinely delighted.
“Good handwriting is a rare thing! Lastyusha will write cards and congratulatory notes that everyone will enjoy receiving.”
Meanwhile, Lastyusha found the most inappropriate ways to enjoy her free time. She taught Professor Come-Thinkman’s beloved parrot to screech witha heart-rending parrot squawk:“Two times to two is five!”
Moreover, she changed all the covers of Tararam’stextbooks. In his reader he found examples of multiplication and division. And the answers were wrong. In his mathsproblem book he found accounts of common nightmares and fearful stories of the inexplicable. In his dictionary — music for discotheques and parties; and in his school journal – fashion photos and the sort of funny pictures that girls like.
And then, one night, Lastyusha sewed up the sleeves of Professor Come-Thinkman’s coat and nailed Tararam’s new shoes to the floor.
“What a hard-working child!” exclaimed Goodheart (while Professor Come-Thinkman was speechless). “She might become an excellent seamstress. Or a parrot-trainer!”
The years passed and the magicians’ children got bigger.
Tararam grew stronger; Lastyusha grew prettier.
One spring day the professor cancelled a mathematics class because he had caught a cold. The young people left the classroom for the park outside the professor’s house. The spring air was so warm and thick it felt like you could part it with your hands.
“Isn’t it strange,” said Tararam, “that the morning smells like a freshly-cut watermelon?”
“It smells of the fresh earth!” Lastyusha corrected him sternly. “To be precise”.
Refracted rays of the sun leapt across Lastyusha’s forehead and neck.
“It’s as if the flowers were beginning to come out right in front of us,” noted Tararam, trying not to look at Lastyusha’s neck and the blinding rays of the sun.
“As if there weren’t enough flowers”, she replied, squinting in the sunlight.
“There are so many dandelions!” he sighed. “The birds are chirping…”
“Which birds? That is, which species and subspecies of birds can you identify?”
“That’s hard for me,” Tararam confessed. “I’ll ask the professor.”
A light breeze rose up. The earth itself was still cool, but the spring sun was still warming.
“It’s chilly…” said Lastyusha, hunching her shoulders against the cold.
“But there are no flies,” said Tararam, removing his jacket and covering her shoulders with it.
“No flies! No flies on me!” cried Lastyusha, mockingly, as she ran and hid among the trees.
“Absolutely!” laughed Taram as he chased after her. “None at all! No flies on you!”
“That’s all I need! It looks like the son of a powerful wizard is about to fall in love,” acknowledgedGroucher. “Friendship, empathy for those who suffer, pity, and love are all old-fashioned prejudices, of which a thoughtful young man must rid himself immediately in order to make significant progress in real life!”